Holding a golden rail spike, Gov. George Pataki, joined by the heads of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York City Transit, proudly announced Sunday the reopening of three subway stations shut down since the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.
"Everyday this great city comes back a little stronger and moves forward a little better," Pataki said outside of the South Ferry No. 1 and No. 9 subway station. "That's what we're seeing here today with one and nine service returned to South Ferry."
South Ferry is the subway station at the very lower tip of Manhattan, in Battery Park - the place where ferries leave for Staten Island, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and now, also the home of the World Trade Center memorial eternal flame.
In addition to the South Ferry station, two stations in the heart of the New York financial district - the Rector Street station on the No. 1 and No. 9 lines and the Cortlandt Street stop on the N and R lines - opened Sunday for the first time since last year.
The Cortlandt Street station on the No. 1 and No. 9 lines, which lies directly below the World Trade Center site, will remain closed until lower Manhattan redevelopment plans are finalized.
That could take some time, since the debate continues over how much - or if any - of the 16 acres left vacant by the twin towers collapse should be made into office space and if so, in what kind of design and configuration.
The subway stations reopened Sunday were heavily damaged by the Sept. 11 terror attacks, which filled nearly a quarter mile of track and tunnel was filled with debris from the collapsed buildings.
"It was just a tremendous effort by everyone pulling together. This was a 24-hour a day job, seven days a week," Pataki said. "It is tribute to our work force, to the strength of New York."
Authorities say the reopening came a full month ahead of schedule, earning its contractors, Tully Pegno, a $3 million bonus. Overall, the project cost approximately $100 million.
"I'm sure the 1.3 million riders that were affected by this closure are glad to say that money was well spent," said Larry Reuter, president of the New York City Transit Authority.
Pataki said the reopening would be a boon to spurring growth of lower Manhattan's economy.
"This is going to be very positive," he said. "It's going to help everyone who lives there, the people who work there, and it certainly helps all the shops and the businesses."
That's no side issue to New York City. The economic cost of the terror attacks in New York City alone has been estimated at $83 billion to $95 billion, depending on how many jobs are permanently lost.
Reliable transportation is seen as a big factor in convincing companies to stay in New York - and in attracting others to move to New York.
For riders, the reopening is yet another step in New York's recovery.
"It really is a sign that the city is recovering now that there is unfettered access to downtown," said Jimmy Smith, 34, a textile and leather salesman from Manhattan. "I think this'll be really important for those who work down there."
In addition to the reopened stations, the No. 2 and No. 3 lines will resume express service between Chambers Street and 96th Street, and the No. 1 and No. 9 lines will again stop at alternating stations north of 137th Street during rush hour.
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